Do Sweetgreen Restaurants use food packaging & takeaway containers that contain PFAS “forever chemicals?” Mamavation sent a Sweetgreen bowl from a greater Los Angeles location off to an EPA-certified laboratory to find out. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best green beauty makeup without PFAS, safest cookware sans PFAS, & safest cooking oils sans PFAS, now join us for the laboratory results of SweetGreen’s takeaway containers for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.”
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
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PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Are Ubiquitous Inside the Home & Common in Food Packaging & Takeaway Containers
PFAS, otherwise known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (aka PFCs or perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA and PFOS) are added to many products we purchase to make them “stain-resistant,” “grease-proof,” and “water-resistant.” In terms of food packaging, it’s added on purpose to keep the grease and water inside the container.
Earlier this year, Consumer Reports released a study looking at food packaging from some of the most popular fast food and fast-casual restaurants in the United States. Mamavation added some additional testing of from In-n-Out & Chipotle food packaging we had done to the investigation. We found a difference in detections from what the Consumer Reports study focused on samples from the East coast vs. samples we found here in Los Angeles for Chipotle.
However, we had not tested Sweetgreen yet and so many of our readers eat there, so we wanted to test a more recent sample from a store located in greater Los Angeles where food packaging restrictions on PFAS are close to being in effect.
As of October 5, 2021 California has a new law involving the use of PFAS in restaurants. Assembly Bill No. 1200, or AB 1200, “would prohibit … any person from distributing, selling, or offering for sale in the state any food packaging that contains regulated perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.” The law also bans the sale and distribution of cookware that contains certain PFAS chemicals in the handle of the product or in any food contact surface, foodstuffs, or beverages unless new labeling and disclosure requirements are met. When are restaurants mandated to comply? All food packaging needs to be PFAS free by January 1st, 2023.
The Mamavation community was interested in how close they were to complying with this new law.
Watch Out For PFAS Inside Other Products in Your Home
Here are some of the other products you’ll find PFAS in and it varies on whether it’s there on purpose or not.
- Food packaging: they are used in popcorn bags, pizza boxes, fast food canisters & wrappers, and the flat dish on the bottom of cakes at the grocery store.
- Building Materials: They are also in carpeting, flooring, artificial turf, sealants, & roofing
- Fabrics & Clothing: used on clothing as “stain-proof” and “water-proof” agents & also other fabrics in your home like furniture. Check out our investigation on sports bras and yoga pants!
- Cookware: You can also find them on non-stick pans
- Kitchen Appliances: Some small kitchen appliances coat PFAS on surfaces to keep things from sticking like most air fryers
- Personal Care: You’ll find them in your personal care like some tooth flosses, and cosmetics. Mamavation is presently working on investigations on tooth floss, toothpaste, and toilet paper and will report back on these consumer studies soon.
- Processed food: We found indications of PFAS in pasta sauces, cooking oils, & nut butters.
- Menstrual Products: You’ll also find them in about 65% of period underwear, according to Mamavation’s own consumer study.
- Mattresses: Even your mattress can contain PFAS chemicals but these types of mattresses do not.
- Indoor Dust: PFAS chemicals stick to dust particles so the more dust you have in your home, the more likely there is PFAS in the air you breathe. Check out our tips on how to clean this up in your home!
- Drinking Water: Drinking water close to certain industries like military bases, airports, and printer shops are examples of where they have been finding PFAS in the water supply. But not to fear! Mamavation has found the best water filters for your home to capture PFAS here.
PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Are Linked to Problematic Health Effects
PFAS “forever chemicals” are problematic to human health and the environment. They are considered persistent, ubiquitous, and very toxic. Because they do not naturally exit the body for many months or many years and are not known to degrade in the environment, they are considered “forever chemicals.” Therefore, it’s imperative to reduce the amount of PFAS you are exposed to by food and water.
Here’s a list of health effects PFAS chemicals are linked to presently:
- reduction in immunity
- reduced vaccination response
- increased risk of allergies & asthma in young children
- affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- increase cholesterol levels
- metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- cardiovascular disease
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- lowers male fertility
- smaller penis size
- increase the risk of kidney & testicular cancers
- Causes endocrine disruption
- Disrupts normal thyroid function
If you feel like you’ve been exposed to PFAS, especially during pregnancy, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of Community Health Investigations has created this health advisory fact sheet to use when talking to your doctor. While regulating authorities struggle to catch up, it would be wise to limit your daily exposure to PFAS markers within food like pasta sauce, cooking oils, or makeup.
Results of PFAS Organic Fluorine Marker Testing for Sweetgreen’s Restaurant Takeaway Container
An EPA-certified laboratory conducted marker testing for PFAS “forever chemicals” of the takeaway container from Sweetgreen’s Restaurant in greater Los Angeles. The specific lab method used by Mamavation tested for total fluorine by using the Determination of Total Fluorine by Oxygen Flask Combustion and Ion-Selective Electrode. If detectable total fluorine was observed at a detection level of 10ppm, the lab did the Determination of free Fluoride Ion in the oil by Ion-Selective Electrode and then subtracted that from the Total Fluorine to determine the amount of organic fluorine.
Results from our Laboratory:
- Sweetgreen’s takeaway container — 469 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
What does this mean? This means our lab detected high levels of organic fluorine inside a takeaway container at Sweetgreens. Organic fluorine testing is marker testing. There are over 12,000 different PFAS chemicals in commerce and they are impossible to identify all of them. In fact, it’s only possible to identify about 100 or so in a really good lab. Therefore, we do marker testing instead looking for the element they all have in common–organic fluorine. Other possibilities of what we could also be detecting with organic fluorine? Fluorinated pesticides or fluorinated pharmaceutical drugs, neither which our audience would want in their food packaging. We did not identify a specific type of PFAS, but its very likely that Sweetgreens still has PFAS inside their takeaway containers in greater Los Angeles according to our lab.
Additional Mamavation Investigations To Help Your Family
Mamavation has been working hard to discover where to find PFAS “forever chemicals” inside food & other products we purchase and bring inside our homes. This is why we have decided to commission our own consumer studies on indications of PFAS in different consumer categories and share that information with you.
- Pasta & Tomato Sauces
- Nut Butters (Peanut butter, etc.)
- Cooking Oils (olive oil, almond oil, canola oil, etc)
- Activewear (Yoga Pants)
- Sports Bras
- Green Beauty Makeup
- Period Underwear
- Parchment Paper
- Bamboo Flooring
- Baby Strollers
We also have other non-toxic investigations on products for your children or the rest of your family. Here are some that we thought you may like.
- Best Yoga mats
- Best Organic Mattresses
- Best Air purifiers
- Best Cookware
- Best Plant-Based Milks
- Best Water Filters for PFAS Filtration
- Best Collagen
- Best Electrolyte Replacement Drinks, Sports Drinks, & Coconut Water
- Best Infrared Saunas
- Best Bubble Bath
Click here for a complete list of product investigations.